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Terry Theise "Flavor" Event


DonRocks
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Terry's going to be here today at 1 PM to discuss this rather unusual wine event, which he'll be putting on at Zola this Friday (it's $115 exclusive). I know he's super busy right now trying to finish his catalog, but he's going to hang around here this afternoon for a couple of hours to chat about it - feel free to ask as many questions as you wish.

Cheers,

Rocks

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Terry's going to be here today at 1 PM to discuss this rather unusual wine event, which he'll be putting on at Zola this Friday (it's $115 exclusive). I know he's super busy right now trying to finish his catalog, but he's going to hang around here this afternoon for a couple of hours to chat about it - feel free to ask as many questions as you wish.

Cheers,

Rocks

The first time I visited Zola Kitchen and Wine Bar, I knew it offered

chance to do a different sort of "wine dinner." The old formula is tired,

and I want to revive it. So what we're doing is delving as deeply as

possible into FLAVORS, and how they combine and synergize. We're doing

three basic preps each of which will have small but telling variations, in

such building-block flavors as acidity, herbs/spices, and sweetness. We'll

have nine wines alongside, themselves arranged from driest to least dry,

from the three segments of my portfolio: Austria, Champagne and Germany.

This way the diner can see, for example, how the addition of more acidity

in the dish makes wine #3 unsuitable but suddenly demands wine #7 - we can

see flavors up-close and in detail, and therefore see wine as just another

in a chain of flavors which undulate in various interesting ways.

This is a first for me, and there's a chance I'm overreaching. But I'm

willing to risk it because we so seldom get to think about these things in

such detail. The idea came from Charlie Trotter's new wine-service book, in

which he wrote that his kitchen will routinely adapt a dish to the wine

being drunk. Lest this appear to be oh-so earnest, if any of you know me,

you know it won't. I hope to see you on Friday evening; we start at 6:30.

Terry

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Terry-

Thanks for joining us and this sounds fantastic. I assume all of the pertinent details are at the Zola website? You single-handedly opened up my mind, world, and stomach to the joys of riesling, for which I am forever indebted. Hopefully the DR.com community can tear themselves away from "Dress Code" gate and realize you are here.

As an aside, I have not picked my wines for father's day consumption yet. Any recommendations from your latest imports?

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Terry-

Thanks for joining us and this sounds fantastic. I assume all of the pertinent details are at the Zola website? You single-handedly opened up my mind, world, and stomach to the joys of riesling, for which I am forever indebted. Hopefully the DR.com community can tear themselves away from "Dress Code" gate and realize you are here.

As an aside, I have not picked my wines for father's day consumption yet. Any recommendations from your latest imports?

As always, depends what's on the menu!

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Been trying to call to sign up (dialing 202-639-9463), but no answer. I wonder if the phone system is conspiring against my potential for discovering culinary epiphanies.

I'll try again later. In case I forget to call, think they'll be room for a walk-in or two?

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The first time I visited Zola Kitchen and Wine Bar, I knew it offered

chance to do a different sort of "wine dinner." The old formula is tired,

and I want to revive it. So what we're doing is delving as deeply as

possible into FLAVORS, and how they combine and synergize. We're doing

three basic preps each of which will have small but telling variations, in

such building-block flavors as acidity, herbs/spices, and sweetness. We'll

have nine wines alongside, themselves arranged from driest to least dry,

from the three segments of my portfolio: Austria, Champagne and Germany.

This way the diner can see, for example, how the addition of more acidity

in the dish makes wine #3 unsuitable but suddenly demands wine #7 - we can

see flavors up-close and in detail, and therefore see wine as just another

in a chain of flavors which undulate in various interesting ways.

This is a first for me, and there's a chance I'm overreaching. But I'm

willing to risk it because we so seldom get to think about these things in

such detail. The idea came from Charlie Trotter's new wine-service book, in

which he wrote that his kitchen will routinely adapt a dish to the wine

being drunk. Lest this appear to be oh-so earnest, if any of you know me,

you know it won't. I hope to see you on Friday evening; we start at 6:30.

Terry

This reminds me a lot of the concept behind Gray Kunz and Peter Kaminsky's cookbook "The Elements of Taste" published in 2001 in which they separate food into 14 elements: tastes that push (salty, picante & sweet), that pull ( tangy, vinted, bulby, spiced aromatic, floral herbal & funky), tastes that puctuate (sharp/bitter) and tastes platforms (garden, meatey, oceanic and starchy). I have had great success cooking from this book.

Are you familiar with it?

I am intrigued by your new dinner/wine formula and hope I can work things out in order to attend.

Is there a space limitation that might require me to find a scalper? :D

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Cheese (yet to be selected), various chacruterie.

I'd suggest German wines with RS, and the best place to get them is MacArthur; talk to Phil. If the cheeses are soft or semi-soft, Champagne would work. Goat cheeses can manage Veltliner if they're young, but aged examples really need a take-no-prisoners Sancerre.

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This reminds me a lot of the concept behind Gray Kunz and Peter Kaminsky's cookbook "The Elements of Taste" published in 2001 in which they separate food into 14 elements: tastes that push (salty, picante & sweet), that pull ( tangy, vinted, bulby, spiced aromatic, floral herbal & funky), tastes that puctuate (sharp/bitter) and tastes platforms (garden, meatey, oceanic and starchy). I have had great success cooking from this book.

Are you familiar with it?

I am intrigued by your new dinner/wine formula and hope I can work things out in order to attend.

Is there a space limitation that might require me to find a scalper? :D

Space is indeed limited but I'm not sure what the demand has been. I'm optimistic that every food-wine whack-job out there who wants to get in will get in.

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This reminds me a lot of the concept behind Gray Kunz and Peter Kaminsky's cookbook "The Elements of Taste" published in 2001 in which they separate food into 14 elements: tastes that push (salty, picante & sweet), that pull ( tangy, vinted, bulby, spiced aromatic, floral herbal & funky), tastes that puctuate (sharp/bitter) and tastes platforms (garden, meatey, oceanic and starchy). I have had great success cooking from this book.

Are you familiar with it?

I am intrigued by your new dinner/wine formula and hope I can work things out in order to attend.

Is there a space limitation that might require me to find a scalper? :D

Sorry, I ignored your question. Yes I do know (and very much admire) that book.

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Occasionally I find myself sitting around a cheese course sipping the dregs of five or six bottles of decent wine with friends, and a lot of times there's no consensus on an "ideal" match, but they all taste pretty good. us, and some cominations are excellent. But never the same ones.

I was down in Bell Wines one day, at one of their Saturday tastings, and I mentioned that I was having an omelet (bacon and Gruyere, most likely) and pommes persillade for dinner and was looking for a good countrified $10-15 red to accompany it. The assembled tasters and pourers reacted with horror: only white goes with omelets, I was told.

Ray's the Steaks has 200 kinds of red wine (a guess) and six kinds of steak. Are 194 of those wines the "wrong" wines (or 182, given one wine for each steak at each price point)?

Four of us were at CityZen, eating through six (or more) different appetizers but sharing only one Gruner. Were all but one of those appetizers mis-matched?

All of this to ask: while the idea of one wine being objectively better than another has been borne out by long experience, mightn't the idea of there being an objectively ideal pairing between fine wines and a single dish be pushing it? Everyone has preferences, and there are a lot of matches that seem obvious over many years, but isn't there a lot of subjectivity in pairing based on personal preferences for wines and their many facets? If I prefer the #3 rather than the #7 should I be voted off the island?

Also, is it possible to understand German wines without being German or in the business?

Finally, could you weigh in on on stemless glasses and t-shirts at fine dining establishments? :D

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Occasionally I find myself sitting around a cheese course sipping the dregs of five or six bottles of decent wine with friends, and a lot of times there's no consensus on an "ideal" match, but they all taste pretty good. us, and some cominations are excellent. But never the same ones.

I was down in Bell Wines one day, at one of their Saturday tastings, and I mentioned that I was having an omelet (bacon and Gruyere, most likely) and pommes persillade for dinner and was looking for a good countrified $10-15 red to accompany it. The assembled tasters and pourers reacted with horror: only white goes with omelets, I was told.

Ray's the Steaks has 200 kinds of red wine (a guess) and six kinds of steak. Are 194 of those wines the "wrong" wines (or 182, given one wine for each steak at each price point)?

Four of us were at CityZen, eating through six (or more) different appetizers but sharing only one Gruner. Were all but one of those appetizers mis-matched?

All of this to ask: while the idea of one wine being objectively better than another has been borne out by long experience, mightn't the idea of there being an objectively ideal pairing between fine wines and a single dish be pushing it? Everyone has preferences, and there are a lot of matches that seem obvious over many years, but isn't there a lot of subjectivity in pairing based on personal preferences for wines and their many facets? If I prefer the #3 rather than the #7 should I be voted off the island?

Also, is it possible to understand German wines without being German or in the business?

Finally, could you weigh in on on stemless glasses and t-shirts at fine dining establishments? :D

Well, that's sort of my entire point, which isn't to get ludicrously granular but to demonstrate the various ways flavor combos can work great, work OK, not work or REALLY not work. It's very rare there's a "perfect" wine, but it can be very helpful to get a few basic rules under our belts. Put it this way, the goal isn't to hit the bulls-eye; it's to hit the TARGET.

If you "prefer the #3 rather than the #7" you should only be prepared to share why, so that others can understand what it is you're experiencing. It's all enlightening.

It's possible to understand German wine if you're a moderately intelligent 9-year-old whose parents let her drink wine.

Stemless glasses and t-shirts at fine-dining establishments are a grim sign of the goofball social/civil entropy threatening to lay waste to all culture and values. Or not.

Over and out for me. I hope to see some of you Friday evening, and please tell me you're a member of Don's fattening universe.

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I wound up making it to the Flavors dinner last night at Zola Wine & Kitchen. Special thanks to Don for bringing Terry to the board to discuss the event, lest it would have never hit my culinary radar screen (radar plate?).

The Short Story:

The event delivered, exactly as promised, a rare opportunity to expand one’s understanding of the interplay between wine and food. No cheat sheets. No single answer. No “under ripe melon with graphite” or other self-fulfilling flavor prophecies. Just a well-designed event to widen one’s repertoire of palate sensation and thereby evolve appreciation.

For this dinner, Terry chose the wines, and knew generally which meats would appear on the menu. However, he did not prescribe the flavor profile of the dishes. The whole point was to play with what came out of the inspired chef’s creations, mixing and matching to discover how different bites with different wines evoked certain aspects of the palate. Nine distinct dishes, nine wines, nine guests, and one exceptional host, this was culinary tic-tac-toe with infinite ways to win.

At the close of the evening, Elli mentioned that she may plan another event like this closer to the holidays. If you are seeking to expand your understanding of wine interplaying with food, and deepen the appreciation of your own palate, this would be one not to miss.

The Long Story:

Course #1, Scallops: with truffle cauliflower puree; with foie gras emulsion; with balsamic glaze, watermelon, and arugula microgreens

Course #2, Rabbit: with butter-poached baby carrots and celery leaf salad; with sweet tar-braised mushrooms and sherry vinegar glaze; with charred onion glaze

Course #3, Veal: with blood orange carmelized endive and thyme reduction; with epoisse grits, charred frisee, and shallot vinaigrette; with garlic spinach and jalapeno steak sauce

Trio of house-made sorbets

Nine wines in all, including two sparkling and four Rieslings. A wide representation from the bone dry to bursting with rich fruit to sweeter and heavier. Terry indicated that he chose these wines from his catalogue based on their food-friendly characteristics. After the meal, a listing of the wines demonstrated per-bottle prices ranging from $21 to $79, with over half the selections under $26.

The chefs plated each course simply yet beautifully. All three items appeared together on a square rectangular dish, an ideal size to keep juices from intermingling. Without exception, all meats were cooked to perfection. Seasonings were well-defined for each dish, with just a couple of flat notes. Triumphant standouts for me included the scallop with truffle essence paired with one of the champagnes, and the rabbit with mushrooms accompanied by one of the reislings. For those two especially, the transformative power of the wine to radically alter the palate between and in preparation for the next bite stunned me into fulfilling silence. As Terry denotes, the goal is to always hit the target rather than the bullseye, but my palate registered these pairings as a personalized, unmistakable, 50-point victory.

Insert Moment of Zen

Terry emphasized throughout the evening that any given wine/dish epiphany offers a transcendent, one-time-only experience. A chef could prepare the exact same dish to pair with the exact same wine a few days later, but differences in the quality and proportion of the ingredients, nuances in the wine, and simple daily adjustment to the taster’s palate ensure that a given sensation may never be repeated again. Especially after this event, I have renewed appreciation for the gratitude-enhancing ritual of embracing the present moment through transformative wine/food experiences.

End Moment of Zen

The rabbit with carrot and celery leaf salad helped showcase how a different wine worked depending on whether or not one included the sweet root vegetable or the herbaceous greens. The watermelon scallop dish positively burst with deeper fruit when paired with one of the wines. However, excluding the watermelon in the next bite caused for me what Terry would label an “agree-to-disagree” pairing sensation. These types of revelations were exactly the insights the event was designed to induce. So I, like, felt successful and stuff.

Based on my tasting, one minor downside to the experience was the slowly rising temperature of the wines. Every few minutes in the glass, the warmer the wine became, changing the profile. Probably not an avoidable situation, but it did impact the flavor possibilities. On the other hand, the wait staff demonstrated exceptional skill, unobtrusively keeping all of the glasses half-full. This, in effect, chilled each glass with subsequent fresh pours. So perhaps this is “shame on me” for not drinking quickly enough to take advantage of that auto-correction mechanism.

The acoustics of the spartan space were good—sounds from the kitchen never overtook the environment. As this was an unprecedented event in this venue, there were a couple of logistical improvement opportunities. For instance, the tags kept flipping over when I picked up the wine glasses, easily remedied with a different labeling technique.

Between Terry’s expertise and the flavor-showcasing skills of the kitchen staff, the design of this event offered a much wider range of palate sensations than most other culinary events. One diner suggested that perhaps the best way to carry this into our futures would be to start a new trend of ordering seven bottles of wine at every evening meal. The table heartily agreed with the benefits of that strategy, if we could only figure out how to bypass the expense! There is something to that idea, though, something beyond the typical flight approach of coupling one wine with each course. Perhaps the best we can do in the interim is to sign up for more events like these, and continue hosting our own tasting events in our own homes with a variety of food-friendly wines. Eventually, instinct kicks in and pairings become effortless. In the interim, forums like this event provide an exceptional crash course in palate awareness and the freedom to discover.

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